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HSN denim diva Diane Gilman hitting stride in her 60s

Published Apr. 19, 2013

At 67, fashion designer Diane Gilman is making more money than she ever has in her life. She's got the figure of someone two decades younger — maybe more — and is getting more exposure and opportunities than she never imagined.

Oh, and she's also having the best sex of her life.

That's what a rockin' pair of jeans can do.

Gilman is the top-selling fashion designer and resident "denim diva'' on HSN, the home shopping television network headquartered in St. Petersburg. She has sold more than 7 million pairs of her DG2 jeans for middle-age women. Her retail line, which also has tops and jackets, does more than $150 million in sales a year.

Basically, she's got it all going on, thanks to hard work, determination and what she calls a "miracle in a pant leg.''

How does she do it? So many people asked the question that Gilman decided to spell it out in a tell-all book out last month through HSN, Barnes & Noble and other retailers. It's honest, bold and, at times, racy.

Good Jeans: 10 Simple Truths about Feeling Great, Staying Sexy & Aging Agelessly talks about Gilman's life growing up in an abusive home, creating custom jeans for Cher in the '70s and selling her first clothing line at Bloomingdale's. Of course, it talks about her love life, most recently with a man 14 years her junior who ripped off her dress on their first date, igniting what she calls a "foundation-rocking sex'' life.

In the end, Gilman hopes the book inspires women to shun stereotypes about aging and live the life they dream about. She did, and has never been more fulfilled.

Gilman lives in New York City but travels to HSN about three times a month for live shows. On Monday, she'll be at the Barnes & Noble in Tampa to meet with fans and sign her book. In an interview from her office, here's Gilman's take on a variety of topics covered in her book.

On plastic surgery

It drives me nuts when people who are real celebrities consistently want the public to think that somehow they lead an elevated existence where, "Gee whiz, what a miracle. They just don't age!'' I would like to be more open with that, especially in a city like New York where having an injection of Botox or filler is about the equivalent of getting your shoes shined. It's maintenance, but when you look good, you feel good. Women will act like it's so terrible, but it's not. You wash your car, don't you? You paint your house. For very little effort and a lot of transparency on my part, I hope to make it less hush, hush.

On great sex later in life

Many women my age think those areas of their lives are finished. Let me tell you — and someone just did a study on it — sex is as important as breathing, drinking water and eating food and exercising. It's important to your mentality, your health. I want to tell women in their 50s and 60s who say "I don't care about that anymore," that it just isn't true. You care about it. You're just afraid. Keep yourself open. Work on yourself. Do the thing you need to do so you don't totally feel self-conscious like I did. You can have lots of fun in your 50s and 60s.

On being a cougar

Honestly, I'm in awe of myself. Seven years later, (my boyfriend and I) are still going strong. If you had told me I'm going to have the knock-down, drag-out amazing love affair in my 60s — not my 20s or 30s or 40s — I would have said you're out of your mind.

On excelling professionally in her 60s

This shouldn't be happening to a woman in the fashion and TV industry in her 60s. This is all wrong. Yeah, all wrong if you follow the rule book. Right if you say to yourself, "Dammit, I'm not going to let myself be retired to invisibility just because I'm in my 60s and the world says that I should.''

On what makes jeans special

It's absolutely the most iconic piece of clothing imaginable. Every single decade has had its star jean. I don't think you can say there has been any other article of clothing that has been as enduring as jeans have. And honestly, it's the sturdiest fashion item you'll ever buy. It's got everything going for it. I wear them every day.

On selling to middle-age women

Fashion doesn't cater to the baby boomer. The drug industry caters to the baby boomer, and mostly they cater to the male baby boomer. Everything is about making the man attractive to females. Making the man virile again. Nothing for women. Someone actually said to me, "Oh, your customer's old.'' He was someone who sold nail clippers to the dollar store. I asked him, "Well, how old are you?'' And he said 58. I said, "So you're putting yourself down because you're in that demographic.'' Everyone wants that teenage audience who's going to stay with you for life, but that's not necessarily going to happen.

On reader reaction to the book

One woman complained she wanted pictures and another woman complained there's too much sex and not enough religion in your book. (Laughs) Most of the women who read it were touched and they related to it because there is no voice for women once you're past 50. Hollywood females spend their time denying their age. They have to. They hit a brick wall when they are 40. I won't even go to a newsstand when the bathing suit issues are out. I know I'm going to see 16-year-old, anorexic, 7-foot models in bikinis and think, "Oh God.'' We have no images that shore us up, give us advice, guidelines or hope. None. That's a lot of what my book is about. It's about, "Hey guys, I'm here. Guess what? My 60s are rocking.''

Susan Thurston can be reached at sthurston@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3110.

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